Sharing a piece from the Atlantic which makes a case for free tuition, albeit at state schools. Read the article here.
The recession, rising tuition costs and debt have all created a vicious cycle resulting in trillions of dollars in debt and rising delinquency rates. Moreover, the continued low interest lending has not helped rising tuition rates.. laments we have heard time and again. This article proposes a solution to make college education affordable and debt-free and I think it brings up some interesting points.

Quoting from the article,

With what the federal government spent on its various and sundry student aid initiatives last year, it could have covered the tuition bill of every student at every public college in the country. Doing so might have required cutting off financial aid at Yale, Amherst, the University of Phoenix, and every other private university. But at this point, that might be a trade worth considering.

It puts forth the following points to make its case:
1. Students going to state schools, including Undergraduate and graduate students spent less than $60 billion in 2012, whereas Washington spent $77 billion in aid through tax breaks and grants.
With the money that's either going to private colleges, or being paid to the public sector in a roundabout way via tax breaks, we could probably make tuition at public institutions -- which educate about 76 percent of American undergrads -- either free, or ridiculously cheap.

2. Instead of providing low cost loans, grants and tax breaks, it suggests passing the cash to states, with attached conditions for maintaining a per-student funding and lowering tuition rates at colleges. "The goal would be to bring down the cost of school dramatically across the board, but while using progressive tuition levels so the poorest students paid nothing, while upper-middle-class and wealthy students paid a few thousand dollars each."

3. Ofcourse this would mean chopping off Pell Grants and tax breaks for students of private schools. The article makes a case for this by arguing that,

Top colleges might simply increase their financial aid. And beyond that, those students would still have loans available. And going into a bit more debt for an elite education, and the professional network that comes with it, would probably still pay off.

What do you think, wishful thinking or an idea worth considering?

Comments (10)


This would completely bankrupt the for-profit education industry. That's 5% of bachelor's degrees and 17% of associates degrees. This article is based in part on a false dichotomy. Private education does not always entail privilege, there are hundreds of thousands of students at private colleges (religious ones, for example) that rely on federal funds.

Doesn't mean its a bad idea though. It would dramatically increases the competitiveness of public colleges, maybe pushing some of the incentivization down into high school (in my opinion, the ease of acceptance at publics (even flagships in some states) is a major reason why high school students underperform. No one will look at your high school grades once you're in college, so if trying harder in HS has no impact on which college you go to why bother? More selective (free) publics might change this, but let's not pretend that there is no cost. Very, very few private schools can just dial up their financial aid to compensate.


I also think that private schools should get in on some of this subsidized tuition AS LONG AS they agree to freeze tuition hikes (and maybe even reverse it). The government helps with best intentions but the shortsightedness can have unintended consequences. The fact that government aid for grants and loan subsidies are supposed to help students actually end up saddling graduates with a mountain of debt while the cost of education outpaces the growth of inflation by about 2x as these schools know that the money will come from the government (and ultimately the taxpayer's pocket). The people who administer these schools have figured out how to get free money.

On another note I always found it odd that the tuition cost per student for elite universities is roughly the same for crappy random private schools as well.

This would completely bankrupt the for-profit education industry.

One can only hope...


Would bankrupting the for profit education industry really be such a bad thing? I for one don't particularly like that so much money is spent giving loans to students at these schools who have little to no chance of ever being able to repay them


Check out: Germany

Valor is of no service, chance rules all, and the bravest often fall by the hands of cowards. - Tacitus

Dr. Nick Riviera: Hey, don't worry. You don't have to make up stories here. Save that for court!


Wait, so only those who can afford it will be able to go to H/S/P/Y and the like? Sounds like the perfect recipe for increasing inequalities and the perfect way to avoid renewing the elite...


In theory this seems like a decent idea, but in actuality this would not be practical at all. It is essentially a socialist-tiered education system. Education is a good; it is incredibly unfair and impractical to charge "wealthy" students at state schools tuition (albeit reduced), while not charging students from lower income brackets at all.

One of the reasons there is such an income disparity in the U.S. is because there is a vast emphasis socially that pushes students into a bloated and mediocre collegiate education system. If our country and educational institutions are really honest, a bachelor's degree is not for everybody- certainly not the vastly increased percentages of high school students who pursue traditional academia to second and third levels. This has also encouraged more employers to require a bachelor's for even consideration among some jobs/roles that if we are really honest do not require a degree, further diluting the value of collegiate degrees which are already being produced at an accelerated pace. What's worse, there is a declining number of jobs available for advanced degree holders, further limiting the absolute dollar benefit of a degree.

There are machine mechanics (or insert many other blue collar jobs) that make well over 150k/year... but in high school a kid who is set on pursuing that choice of occupation is looked down upon and others thumb their noses at him. So instead, with his sub-par academic ability, he pursues a bottom-level degree and takes out a large amount of debt to do so, only to graduate into a lifetime earning power of around 65k or so. Hypothetically, if the country were to encourage more of these types of students who are not going to benefit from a bachelor's degree into other forms of career development- trade school, apprenticeships, etc... households would begin to move towards income PARITY.

The dichotomy here is that while in the greater macro picture, it is not in out country's best interest to feed wealth disparity by continuing to funnel "all" high school grads into bachelor's programs, it is still a positive utility choice in economic terms for an individual to pursue a college degree. Until that scale tips- and it becomes a negative utility choice for most students to pursue a bachelor's, the disparity will grow.

The system argued for above would only serve to fuel income disparity even further, not reduce it. It would certainly NOT increase state college competitiveness, as one poster argued above. What it would do, is further isolate the Ivies as a bastion for those of exceptional accomplishment, and dilute the superior value of those degrees today into an average method of screening in the future.


There is a university in Germany that has a system where university costs nothing while studying. Graduates pay a certain percentage of their paychecks over a certain amount of years after graduating. This eases the burden on students and gives universities not only an incentive to place students, but also a chance to get a lot more in tuition. I like that.


What a moronic position. 40% of every single person with a college degree is working in a field where a college degree isn't even used as a screening device. Making college free will greatly increase the amount human capital wasted by sending mentally immature 17 and 18 year olds to get worthless degrees in liberal arts and soft science.

End the public university and all support for higher education.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P


The soviet central planning committee probably had better economic initiatives (and was more to the right) than the fine folks at The Atlantic.


Bene qui latuit, bene vixit- Ovid

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